Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?
The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.
The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.
The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.
The ban on the case of the Oshawa toddler was lifted by the court, but it raised questions over whether court-ordered publication bans are feasible in the Internet era.
With the popularity of such global social networking groups as Facebook and Twitter, can the courts control the pre-trial spread of information? What are the implications for fair trials?
“The Internet really has posed quite a problem in the sense of trying to keep things in check,” argues Toronto-based criminal lawyer Enzo Rondinelli.
It’s going to be difficult to eliminate pre-trial publicity as a whole, but there are other powers that the courts can use to stem the dangers associated with pre-trial publicity, he told Reuters at his office.
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